Seasonal Foods in Turkey: A Breakdown

Life is a collection of rhythms, reflecting humanity’s collective love of tradition and routine. Yet for many around the world, the rhythm of the seasons has become rather muted. While the weather continues to change in ways it more or less always has, our attenuation to the rhythm of seasonal foods wanes. Globalization and refrigeration makes most foods available year round. It’s no doubt a modern convenience being able to enjoy strawberries in the dead of winter or a Turkish banana in the middle of summer, but with such pleasures may unfortunately come a diminished appreciation for the foods of the season.

Hailing as I do from Florida, a land with only two seasons (get in the water at the beach weather and stay sunbathing on the sand at the beach weather), I came of age as a consumer with little regard to the seasonal availability of my favorite foods. Watermelon any old time? ✓Check.

How frustratingly delightful an introduction to agricultural reality it was then when I first came to Palestine and later to Turkey. Not knowing what would be on offer made trips to the market quite suddenly less mundane than they had always been before. After being burned more than once when something sought was no longer to be found, I learned to become far more predatory than most vegetarians and now voraciously attack displays of nectarines and sour cherries when mine eyes espy them. The primordial hunter-gatherer in me henceforth reawakened, I now look forward with anticipation to the changing cycles of fruits and vegetables. The kuruş-pincher in me also forever looks forward to the summer seasons, when tomatoes, my culinary life-giver, are abundant and their prices fall back to earth.

CategoryEnglishTürkçeJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
FishRed MulletBarbunOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyFreshFreshFreshOilyOily
FishSea BreamÇipuraOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyFreshFreshFreshFreshFresh
FishAnchovyHamsiFreshFresh--------FreshFresh
FishHorse MackerelİstavritFreshFreshOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyFreshFresh
FishTurbotKalkanFreshFreshOilyOilyOily-----OilyOily
FishGray MulletKefalFreshOilyOilyOilyOily----FreshFreshFresh
FishPerch / European SeabassLevrekOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyFreshFreshOilyOily
FishBluefishLüferOilyOilyOilyOily---FreshFreshFreshOilyOily
FishHaddockMezgit-FreshFreshFreshFresh-------
FishBonitoPalamut (different sizes, different names)OilyOilyOily----FreshFreshFreshFreshOily
FishSardineSardalya-----FreshFreshFreshFresh---
FishStriped Red MulletTekirOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyFreshFreshFreshFreshOilyOily
FishMackerelUskumruOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyOilyFreshFreshFresh
FruitPearArmut-------FreshFreshFreshFreshFresh
FruitQuinceAyva--------FreshFreshFresh-
FruitPumpkinBalkabagi----------FreshFresh
FruitStrawberriesCilek---FreshFreshFresh------
FruitMulberryDut------FreshFresh----
FruitAppleElma-------FreshFreshFresh--
FruitPlum (various types)Erik----FreshFreshFreshFresh----
FruitGrapefruitGreyfurtFresh-----------
FruitFigIncir------FreshFreshFreshFresh--
FruitWatermelonKarpuz----FreshFreshFreshFreshFresh---
FruitMelonKavun-----FreshFreshFresh----
FruitApricotKayisi-----FreshFresh-----
FruitCherryKiraz---FreshFreshFreshFreshFresh----
FruitLemonLimonFreshFreshFresh------FreshFreshFresh
FruitLoquat (Mespila)Malta Erigi (Yeni dunya)---FreshFreshFresh------
FruitTangerineMandalina-FreshFresh-----FreshFreshFresh-
FruitBananaMuzFreshFresh--------FreshFresh
FruitPomegranateNarFresh-------FreshFresh--
FruitNectarineNektarin-----Fresh------
FruitOrangePortakalFreshFreshFreshFreshFresh----FreshFreshFresh
FruitPeachSeftali-----FreshFreshFreshFresh---
FruitGrapeUzum-------FreshFreshFresh--
FruitSour CherryVisne-----FreshFresh-----
FungiMushroomMantar--------FreshFresh--
NutPistachioAntep Fistigi------------
NutWalnutCeviz-------FreshFreshFresh--
NutHazelnutFindik-------FreshFresh---
NutChestnutKestaneFreshFresh------Fresh--Fresh
VegetableKidney BeanBarbunya--FreshFreshFreshFresh------
VegetableOkraBamya-----FreshFreshFreshFresh---
VegetablePeasBezelye---FreshFreshFresh------
VegetableCowpeaBorulce-------FreshFresh---
VegetableBrocoliBrokoliFreshFreshFresh---------
VegetableBrussel SproutBrüksel lahanasıFreshFresh---------Fresh
VegetableTomatoDomates----FreshFreshFreshFreshFreshFreshFresh-
VegetableArtichokeEnginar---FreshFreshFreshFresh-----
VegetableIceberg LettuceGobek Salata-------Fresh----
VegetableCarrotHavucFreshFreshFresh-----FreshFreshFreshFresh
VegetableSpinachIspanakFreshFreshFreshFresh-----FreshFreshFresh
VegetableSquashKabakFreshFreshFresh-------FreshFresh
VegetableCauliflowerKarnabaharFreshFreshFresh------FreshFreshFresh
VegetableCeleryKerevizFreshFreshFreshFresh-------Fresh
VegetableRed PeppersKirmizi Biber-------FreshFreshFresh--
VegetableLettuceKivricikFreshFreshFreshFresh-----FreshFreshFresh
VegetableAsparagusKuskonmaz-FreshFresh---------
VegetableCabbageLahanaFreshFreshFresh------FreshFreshFresh
VegetableCornMisir------FreshFreshFresh---
VegetableBeetPancar--Fresh---------
VegetablePotatoPatates-----Fresh------
VegetableEggplant / AuberginePatlican-----FreshFreshFreshFreshFreshFresh-
VegetableChardPaziFreshFresh---------Fresh
VegetableLeekPirasiFreshFreshFresh------FreshFreshFresh
VegetableRocketRokaFreshFresh---------Fresh
VegetableCucumberSalatalik----FreshFreshFreshFreshFreshFreshFresh-
VegetableGarlicSarimsak------Fresh-----
VegetablePurslaneSemizotu---FreshFreshFresh------
VegetableGreen PeppersSivri Biber----FreshFreshFreshFreshFreshFresh--
VegetableOnionSogan-FreshFreshFreshFresh-------
VegetableGreen BeansTaze Fasulye----FreshFreshFreshFreshFresh---
VegetableRaddishTurpFreshFreshFresh---------

It wasn’t until I met the woman who would become my partner that I developed an understanding of what it meant to judge foods on freshness rather than availability. The Black Sea woman that she is, my wife is rather fond of fish and more than discriminating when it comes to the fish she eats. A mystery to me at first, she judges fish not on what she sees at the Balıkçı stall but rather on the month of the year, discerning as she does that certain fish could not be sufficiently fresh enough owing to her knowledge of the regulated fishing seasons. I imagine that if everyone was willing to forgo out-of-season fish the way she is, the world’s fish stocks would look a bit better.

To aid others wanting to understand better when certain foods may appear and disappear from their local markets or simply when they should be fresher, my wife and I have compiled a table of foods by month in Turkey. Many of these foods are staples, so you’ll find them all throughout the year, but as with tomatoes and peppers, you’ll certainly find some foods more affordably priced during certain months rather than others. By no means exact or comprehensive, we hope this table is a handy and updatable resource for the readers of Yabangee. Please suggest any corrections or additions in the comments below and we’ll work to keep this an accurate and growing resource.

Should global warming prove true, perhaps Istanbul residents of the distant future may look back on this list with wonder at life before the change.

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Michael Barngrover
Michael Barngrover is an American resident of Istanbul. He lives with his Turkish wife and cats, is finishing up a masters thesis at Boğaziçi University, and usually looking at new opportunities to investigate. After 7 years living as an expat, including a year in a refugee camp and 5 years in Istanbul, Michael finds the more mundane aspects of big city life fascinating. One day he will write his novel and start his gaming company, hopefully while still living in Istanbul.

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